How Nepali Villagers are Dealing With Climate Change

Apr 27th, 2014 | By | Category: Adaptation, Government Policies, Livelihood, Nepal

22171Republica: When he was a little boy, Ram Bahadur Gurung, a resident of Dharampani VDC-1 of Tanahun district, would have to walk downhill for an hour to fetch just a vessel of water. One day, while climbing up the hill carrying a vessel full of water, he accidently stumbled upon a stone; and fell to the ground. His clay vessel got broken.

Back at home, Gurung’s mother was desperately waiting for water to do her chores. When he reached home with no water, he had to face his mother’s wrath. “My mother scolded me so badly that I was never able to forget that incident,” says Gurung, now 56. “As I grew up, I always thought of ways to end water scarcity facing people in our village.”

Gurung was helpless, though. The spring where the villagers would get water from was at the bottom of the hill. And they were living atop the hill. Even worse, as years passed by, the spring dried up, forcing the villagers to go farther to fetch water. “It looked difficult to bring water to our village,” says he. “Lack of electricity made it even more impossible.”

Seven years ago, Gurung, by chance, met some authorities from the Ministry of Energy (MoE), who suggested that they could use solar power to bring water atop the hill. However, due to lack of financial assistance, they were unable to meet the plan. Two years ago, when Hariyo Ban program, a USAID-funded initiative, was launched in Dharampani village, the locals received financial support to complete their drinking water project. Today, through solar power, the water is channeled to the hilltop and consumed by as many as 40 families.

Just a day before the eighth international conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA), which will begin in Kathmandu on Sunday, Gurung was telling a group of representatives of donor agencies, INGOs and foreign NGOs about how they struggled to deal with the effects of climate change. Gurung said the scarcity of water became more acute with every passing year, impacting their overall livelihood activities.

Amazed yet unconvinced by Gurung’s tale, a representative of donor agency bluntly asked him: ‘Is water scarcity truly an effect of climate change? Could it not be the result of rise in population?” Gurung replied, “Our population is, in fact, declining with more men leaving village for jobs. So, it could not be the result of population rise.”

In Nepal’s villages, the locals, mostly with support from the government and donor agencies, are trying their best to adapt to the effects of climate change. They do not know much about climate change. But, they say they are facing climate-related hazards like drought, wildfire, landslide and windstorm more than ever before.

Last Friday, participants of the eighth CBA conference who are now in Nepal from as many as 62 countries, visited seven different areas to see how the locals are adapting themselves to the effects of climate change. In Tanahun, they learned how forest can be used to fight climate change. “It was interesting to see how community forest management can be integrated with climate change adaptation,” said Nguyen Anh Minh, from Care International Vietnam. “This could be done in my country, too.”

What the CBA participants observed in Nepali villages is likely to shape the debate about climate change adaptation in the three-day conference, which is expected to conclude with ‘Kathmandu declaration’. Explaining the rationale behind sending the CBA participants to different Nepali villages, Dr Saleemul Huq, senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), one of the organizers of the conference, said, “We wanted them to go out and see vulnerable people in villages. If they just stay at Soaltee (a five-star hotel where the conference is being held), they do not understand problems of vulnerable people.”

The conference, which has about 450 participants, is also expected to exert pressure on the developed countries to provide financial assistance to vulnerable communities. “It is an advocacy,” said Dr Huq. “At the global level, US $ 100 billion is being made available for assisting developing countries to tackle climate change. Half of that is for adaptation. So, we want a significant portion of that to be spent for vulnerable communities. The conference is to raise demand for global decision makers that whoever has money must give it to vulnerable communities.”

Explaining the theme of the CBA conference, which is financing local adaptation, A. Atiq Rahman, Executive Director of Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies (BCAS), another organizer, said, “It means how we finance local communities in the best way so that they can do what they are doing in a proper way as agreed in climate conventions.”

What the CBA conference, which is hosted by Nepal government in collaboration with organizations like IIED, BCAS and Clean Energy Nepal (CEN), decides shall have significant bearings on the lives of people like Gurung of Dharampani village. Even though they no longer face drinking water problem, their crop-fields are now dry and uncultivated due to drought. “We have had no rain until now this year,” says he. “We do not know how to grow crops this year.”

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